During October, November and December 2011 (when highest sales of Agri-Hub fresh produce are observed), irrigation water, compost, lettuce and spinach sampled from four different farmer cooperatives supplying the local Agri-Hub in uMbumbulu (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) were analyzed monthly for the presence of total and fecal coliforms and Escherichia coli using the most probable number (MPN) technique. The pH values for all irrigation water samples analyzed were within the acceptable range of 6.5–8.5 for agricultural use. Fecal coliform levels were <1,000 MPN per 100 mL irrigation water and <1,000 MPN per g of compost. The vegetables produced by Agri-Hub small-scale farmers met the requirements for total coliforms of <200/g set by the South African Department of Health at the time of sampling. E. coli MPN values for irrigation water and vegetables were below the limit of detection. In addition, the farming practices of 73 farmers were assessed via a survey. The results revealed that more than 40% of farmers used microbiologically safe tap water for irrigation and that trained farmers have a significantly better understanding of the importance of production hygiene than untrained farmers. These results reiterate the importance of interventions that build capacity in the area of food safety and hygiene of small-scale farmers for market access of formal value chains.
Issn1661-7827 (Print) 1660-4601 (Electronic)
JournaltitleInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health